Does Polyester Shrink In The Washing Machine?

There’s nothing worse than finding out that your favorite garment has shrunk in the washing machine. If this has happened to you, you probably are careful not to make the same mistake twice, so you may want to learn about materials that do or don’t shrink that way. 

Polyester doesn’t shrink in cold or warm settings in the washing machine, but it can in higher temperatures. However, the amount of shrinkage is often minimal. Polyester blends are more likely to shrink than pure polyester. Typically, polyester should be washed at 40°C (104°F).

If you’re curious to know more about polyester and how it reacts to different temperatures, read the rest of this article. I will explain how you can wash and dry polyester garments, so they don’t shrink. Moreover, I will give you some more tips on washing polyester, as well as advice on how to intentionally shrink a polyester garment.

Does Polyester Shrink in Washing Machine?

Polyester is designed to resist shrinkage as much as possible, but it may sometimes shrink in the washing machine if the water is too hot or the material isn’t pure. Your polyester garment will be fine after a regular warm or cool cycle wash. Typically, it’s more likely for clothes made of polyester blends to shrink.

Polyester is a synthetic fabric, which means it is not made of organic material. Instead, it’s made of plastic fibers, which are inherently durable and resistant to high temperatures. Additionally, this material goes through chemical treatments that increase its strength even more.

So, you don’t have to be afraid of washing polyester clothes in a washing machine. They can handle a typical wash cycle perfectly and show no signs of any shrinkage or damage. As long as you don’t wash polyester at 110°C (230°F), which is not even possible for most washing machines, you’re good.

Can 100% Polyester Shrink?

It’s almost impossible for 100% polyester to shrink, considering how durable and resistant to heat this material is. Typical washing machine cycles, even at the highest temperature settings, won’t be able to shrink pure polyester. However, if you boil polyester in water, you could shrink it.

Polyester is essentially made of fine threads of plastic. Its fibers are initially in the form of plastic shards before being melted into threads that are woven to create the fabric. This fabric also undergoes chemical treatments, as I explained above.

This method of designing and producing polyester ensures it can only shrink at incredibly high temperatures. For instance, if you accidentally burn a 100% polyester garment using your iron, you’ll notice that the burned area will shrink a bit and even melt.

How Much Does Polyester Shrink in the Wash?

Polyester doesn’t shrink easily, given that it’s made of plastic, but when it does, it shrinks at minimal amounts. If you continuously wash and dry polyester garments, you can see noticeable shrinkage, but at less than 2%. Pure polyester shrinks even less.

If you want to shrink polyester on purpose, you need to try hard using boiling water and high drying temperatures. You still may not be able to achieve a significant shrinkage in size. At most, you might only manage to shrink your garment a size lower.

Here are some general tips on how to attempt to shrink polyester clothing:

  • Turn the garment inside out before putting it in the washing machine.
  • Both the dryer and washing machine should be set to a high-temperature setting, but be careful not to melt the polyester.
  • Alternatively, you can iron your polyester clothes using low to medium heat, but they need to be damp.
  • Another method of shrinking polyester is to dunk the garment in boiling water and allow it to dry.
  • Keep in mind that you can’t calculate how much it will shrink or what shape it will take.

What Temperature Should Polyester Be Washed At?

Polyester should be washed at around 40°C (104°F). Typically, polyester doesn’t require cold wash cycles, but hot water cycles aren’t recommended either. However, every piece of clothing has its ideal washing temperature included on the label.

Always read the washing instructions on the label to make sure you’re choosing the right settings on the washing machine for a specific piece of clothing. Polyester doesn’t require special care, but washing at the ideal temperature helps your clothes last longer.

Extra Tips for Washing Polyester

There are other factors to keep in mind when washing polyester, in addition to the temperature. 

Polyester is a sturdy fabric and can handle a lot, but there are some extra tips you could use to make washing polyester easier:

  • Polyester doesn’t require any special washing detergent.
  • Softener is optional with polyester.
  • Don’t soak polyester in washing solutions for long to get stains out.
  • You can mix colors with polyester with no problem since it retains color well.
  • Avoid using chlorine-based bleach for polyester because it can discolor clothes, similarly to how it discolors pigmentation in tiles or porcelain in your bathtub. On a similar note, if you’re wondering whether you can take a shower after cleaning it with bleach, check out my article on the topic.
  • Handwash the most delicate polyester garments.
  • You can put polyester clothes in the washing machine with garments made of other materials, but avoid rough garments with edges that can damage the fabric.

Can I Dry Polyester in Dryer?

You can dry polyester in a dryer with no problem. As long as the temperature isn’t too high, polyester won’t shrink or burn. To be entirely sure, use the lowest temperature setting on the dryer. A 100% polyester garment can resist even higher settings.

However, even if it’s a garment made purely of polyester, putting it in the dryer at a very high setting is not recommended. The heat from the dryer can shrink even a resistant material like polyester if the temperature is high enough. Even though a dryer works faster, a better method for drying polyester is to let it dry naturally by hang-drying it.


Polyester is a super durable synthetic fabric designed to resist heat. As a result, it doesn’t shrink easily in the washing machine. However, if the temperature is too high or the fabric consists of a mix of polyester and other organic material, you may see some shrinkage. 

You can also put your polyester garments in the dryer, making sure to choose a low-temperature setting to avoid shrinkage. Ideally, you should hang polyester clothes to dry naturally. Ultimately, polyester doesn’t shrink that much, so your garment may only shrink a size at most.